to click or not to click

To Click or Not to ClickWhile I know the internet is something that was a ‘life changer’ for all of us, one of the largest problems with the internet is not something we can totally solve with programs and access levels. One of the big things that we need to understand better – and provide more control over – is human. To be more clear (even though I have written about this before) – we need to change our behavior.

I’m going to let you know that I agree with our current Secretary of Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano) to a certain extent (more than likely on this one issue, but … who knows). Please note, I in no way want to legislate the internet or how people use it (that is a huge difference between Ms. Napolitano / current administration positions with various legislative attempts to do just that). However, she did let something out of the bag with the quote in this story – “Every individual on the net is vulner – is a potential, uh, opening.”

Our behavior is a key element in our experiences. Too often I get machines to fix with badware on it. Why is it there? Because of choices the owners or users of the machines made. Some have no virus protection (and even Mac users need that, contrary to their popular misconceptions). Some have no other protections installed against adware, malware, rootkits, you name it. But the common denominator – in my experience – is someone clicked on something, then things quickly spiraled downhill.

You don’t have to be surfing bad sites to have the opportunity to catch bad things. It could be something that seems as innocent as most anything (like an email from your mom). That email may be spoofed and the link you are clicking on could be just what a cybercrook needs to have a file installed in your computer so they can do many less than noble things with that equipment. It could be looking at a picture you have been tagged in on Facebook, and once you click on that image things start to go downhill.

The point of this post? We need to understand that there is opportunity to have bad things happen just because we are on the internet. Because we will get on the internet, it would be beneficial for all of us to have a stance of health skepticism. Just because something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, on the internet is still may not be the duck you think it is! Protect yourself and your information by being less trusting than you would be if you were interfacing with someone face to face. It is just too easy to pretend to be someone else and send a spoofed tweet with a link asking to (no, really compelling you, for no good reason many times…) to click on it. A link in an email that promises you a happy or funny story, a video you just have to see, or a chance to get something for nothing. An too often we click on it and pay the price.

The day I wrote this article, I received a call from a customer.  They had also received a call – ostensibly letting them know they had infected computers and this individual could assist them right then by removing the infections.  They wanted to log in – through their network (over the web) and assist.  I’m thankful for their healthy dose of skepticism (and the phone call to me).  This was just another attempt at social engineering – leveraging most folks need to help others.  Imagine the damage that could have been leveled at this set of computers (about a dozen for a local business).  They just said no – excellent!

Since 2013 is still young, take a look at how you are interfacing with strangers and strange sites on the web. Are you enabling all those games and apps that communicate with information on your computer / smartphone so your contact list can be ransacked for data? Are you entering contests with lots of required information? Are you laissez faire about the links you click on? Why not make some good changes today – be skeptical! Thanks for reading.